Pilgrims Ways

Description

Santiago de CompostelaEver since the year 813, when the tomb of St.James was claimed to be (re-)discovered there, the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain has attracted many thousands of Christian pilgrims from all parts of Europe, particularly in the Middle Ages. As a result, there is no single route or trail. Of course, it all depends on where you start your pilgrimage.

Almost every West European country has an association, society or confraternity dedicated to pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, often carrying the name of the apostle involved: St.James, known by numerous translations such as Sint Jacob, Sint Jakobus, Saint-Jacques, Sankt Jakob, Sant Iago, etc. These organisations all provide information on the pilgrimage to their members, and also issue an official internationally recognized ‘pilgrim pass'. Having collected the correct stamps en route, pass-holders are entitled to the official ‘Compostela' certificate to prove that the pilgrimage was accomplished as intended.

Four routes in France traditionally start from Paris, Le Puy, Vézelay and Arles. After crossing the Pyrenees they all join into one rather clearly defined route across the northwest of Spain. Symbol of the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Way(s) is a scallop shell, also used for waymarking the route (yellow scallop shell against a blue background).

Spain

Classic route

The classic Way of St. James is the Camino Francés. The three main Ways in France - Via Podiensis, Via Lemovicensis, Via Turonensis - come together in the Pyrenees and cross the mountains near Roncesvaux. Hence, the Camino Francés turns straight west over the plains of northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, a walk of about a month.The fourth main Way from France - Via Tolosana - crosses the Pyrenees at Col du Somport, follows the Camino Aragonés in Spain, and joins the Camino Francés in Puente la Reina.

  • Camino Francés, Roncesvalles / Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Puente la Reina - Santiago de Compostela, 800 km, 32 days
  • Camino Aragonés, Col du Somport - Puente la Reina, 200 km, 8 days

Northern routes

You can imagine that the Camino Francés gets pretty crowded! Luckily, many alternatives have been developed over the years, some with historical relevance, others also a little bit for the pleasure of hiking:

From England

Pilgrims from England can cross by boat to La Coruña or Ferrol and walk on to Santiago:

  • Camino Inglés, Ferrol - Santiago de Compostela, 110 km, 5 days / La Coruña - Santiago de Compostela, 75 km, 3 days

From Portugal

And coming from Portugal, you can follow the Atlantic coast:

From Catalunya

If you rather prefer a totally different approach, you can start in eastern Spain, Catalunya. There is even an option by crossing the Pyrenees in the far east, Le Perthus:

Mediterranean coast

Going down the Mediterranean coast, we meet new posibilities, starting in the province of Valencia for example:

South

Becoming more popular, are the Ways that start in the south of Spain, long and hot and feasting on the Reconquista

France

France has been quick in developing the modern pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela. Four main Ways have been laid out, based on historical relevance. These Ways pass numerous churches and other religious monuments dedicated to the mediaeval pilgrimage to Santiago, and this alone makes France a splendid pilgrimage destination. Moreover, pilgrims from Europe had to cross the Pyrenees and to have lengthy wanderings through France if they wanted to visit the holy grave of St. Jacob.

Via Turonensis

Let’s start with these four main Ways. The westernmost is the Via Turonensis, leaving from Paris, passing Tours ending in Ostabat in the Pyrenees. In modern France this is the GR655. In Spain, this Way continues as Camino Francés. Below are the main and side itineraries:

Via Lemovicencis

Next, parallel to the previous Way, is the Via Lemovicencis, popular for pilgrims from northern Europe. The modern version is the GR654, but be aware that this GR takes a different route from the official pilgrims way. Both routes are, in terms of landscape, more interesting than the first Way over Paris.

Via Podiensis

The third main route, and like the previous one a pretty route too, is the Way over Le Puy-en-Velay, the Via Podiensis. This has been dubbed the GR65. This important Way was and is used by pilgrims from the south and central Europe, from Hungary to Poland.

Via Tolosana

The fourth main Way is the Via Tolosana, bringing pilgrims from Italy, and connecting to the other important pilgrim destination, Rome. Traveling via Toulouse, these pilgrims cross the Pyrenees at the Col du Somport. The state name is GR653.

New Ways

Modern times and modern devotion asks for new horizons. So, we are not done with mentioning the four main Ways. New ways have been developed over the last years.

  • Voie Littorale, Pointe de Grave (Gironde) - Bayonne / Irun, 370 km, 15 days

Belgium

Belgium has a dense network of pilgrim ways. They run north-south, and bring pilgrims from Holland, Flanders and Wallonia to France. The Belgian Ways of Saint James connect to the Via Turonensis over Paris and the Via Lemovicensis over Vézelay. There are five main clusters of trails.

Central-west

One of the main routes is the central-west route connecting the west of the Netherlands to the Via Turonensis, GR655.

Central-east

The second important route runs parallel to the Via Brabantica, connecting ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands to Namur in Belgium. This route connects to Vézelay, the Via Lemovicensis.

Shortcuts

Between these two main vines of the Way of Saint James in Belgium, several shortcuts are available so that if you change your mind, and turn to Paris instead of Vézelay, or vice versa.

  • Via Thiérache, Olloy-sur-Viroin - Saint-Quentin, 120 km, 5 days
  • GR126, Brussels - Namur - Membre-sur-Semois, 224 km, 9 days

East

The third route is probably the most popular one for Dutch Pilgrims, not because it is the shortest, but rather because it is a nice one to walk. It connects the Pelgrimspad to the Vézalay route, the GR654.

West

Then we should mention a coastal route from the Netherlands, entering Belgium at Sluis. This route is bending east and connects to the Via Turonensis.

  • Via Brugensis, Sluis (nl) - Brugge (be) - Sebourg (fr), 150 km, 6 days
  • Via Scaldea, Sluis (nl) - Gent (be) - Pecq, 67 km 3 days
  • GR122, Sebourg - St Fergueux

Ardennes

And finally, a nice route is being developed in the Ardennes.

  • Via Arduinna, Aken / Luik / Malmedy - Orval, 220 km, 9 days

Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country of hiking fervents, so it is not surprising that there are quite a number of pilgrim ways crisscrossing the country. One will clearly observe a difference between those trails that are meant to please the senses, and those that are meant to call upon as many churches as possible. The latter are recognisable by their fancy mediaeval names starting with “Jacobsweg”.

Due to the country’s geographical location, there are two obvious directions to Santiago de Compostela: one over Paris (Via Turonensis) and one over Vézelay (Via Lemovicensis). Since the latter is far more popular, most Dutch pilgrims follow Ways to Limburg, the southeastern corner bordering Belgium and Germany.

Coastal Way to Paris

Let’s start with the option over Paris along the coast. Starting in Wieringen or in Den Oever, the pilgrims head for Haarlem.

From Haarlem, the path continues south more or less along the coast. In Schipluiden is a bifurcation: one way goes east to Antwerpen,the other continues south. Continuing south, there is a second split in Vlissingen. One way goes to Brugge in Belgium, the other to Gent in Belgium.

In Belgium, continue the pilgrimage on the Via Brugensis (over Brugge), Via Scaldea (over Gent), or Via Brabantica (over Antwerpen).

Main Way to Paris

The other pilgrim way to Paris has historic roots. The start is in the north of the country, either in the village Sint-Jacobiparochie or in the town Uithuizen. These Ways head for the village Hasselt. Then the route continues to Utrecht, Breda and Antwerpen in Belgium.

In Belgium, continue on the Via Brabantica.

There is an alternative: the GR12 connects Amsterdam to Paris. The Dutch part of the GR12 is called the Floris V-Pad.

  • Floris V-pad, LAW1-3, Amsterdam - Bergen op Zoom, 245 km, 10 days
  • GR12, Amsterdam - Paris, 977 km, 40 days

Main Way to Vézelay

Two Ways connect the busy west of the country to the province of Limburg and Vézelay. The Pelgrimspad is primarily a trail for walkers enjoying the countryside. The Jacobsweg Amstelredam is primarily a trail for pilgrims enjoying cities and cathedrals.

From Maastricht, continue your pilgrimage on the Via Mosana to Namur. A second option is to leave the Netherlands in the little town of Thorn and follow the Via Limburgica.

Eastern Way to Vézelay

Things get a bit complicated here. The same paths in the north of the Netherlands that are used to go to Paris, are also frequented by pilgrims heading for Vézelay. Hasselt has the key to this mystery: the village is a main intersection of pilgrim ways.

From Hasselt, continue on the Jacobsweg Nieumeghen. Halfway, in the old city Doesburg, pilgrims from Oldenzaal will join you. This part of the Way is more or less the same as the Hanzestedenpad.

In Nijmegen one can continue south. But the real pilgrim will make a large detour to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, an important religious center of the Netherlands. The direct Way to Vézelay heads for Maastricht and Liège, Belgium. This route is sometimes on German territory, sometimes on Dutch territory, and even sometimes on Belgian territory.

From Maastricht, continue on the Via Mosana. Or - alternatively - follow the Via Limburgica starting from Thorn.

Switzerland

In Switzerland, the route follows ...

 

Map

Pilgrims Ways North

Pilgrims Ways Mid

Pilgrims Ways South West

Trails

Books

Cicerone Press
United Kingdom
2015
  • The Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome - Part 2
  • An essential guidebook for anyone planning to walk the Via Francigena pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome. Part 2 describes 940km of the pilgrimage from the Great St Bernard Pass to Rome. Contains all the planning information you need for your journey, including details of facilities and accommodation along the route. Read more
  • Also available from:
  • The Book Depository, United Kingdom
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The Book Depository
United Kingdom
2015
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Cicerone Press
United Kingdom
2013
  • The Way of St James - France
  • This handy guidebook describes the 730km Way of St James pilgrim route from Le Puy-en-Valey in central France to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees. The camino route descriptions include the history of the pilgrimage, places of interest and accommodation. Suitable for all abilities but a basic level of fitness is required due to the distance. Read more
  • Also available from:
  • The Book Depository, United Kingdom
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
» Click to open
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
2013
Bol.com
Netherlands
2013
» Click to close
Cicerone Press
United Kingdom
2015
  • The Northern Caminos
  • Guidebook to the Camino del Norte (Northern Caminos) pilgrim route through northern Spain to the sacred city of Santiago de Compostela. Includes stage-by-stage descriptions to the Camino del Norte (800km), Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles (116km route) and the Camino de Finisterre, and provides advice, information on pilgrim hostels and more. Read more
  • Also available from:
  • The Book Depository, United Kingdom
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
» Click to open
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
2015
Bol.com
Netherlands
2015
» Click to close
Cicerone Press
United Kingdom
2013
  • The Way of St James - Spain
  • Guidebook to walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrim route, or Way of St James. A 778km trek through northern Spain from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela and onto Finisterre on the Galician coast. The camino usually takes between 4 and 5 weeks to hike. Guide to the Frances route, with maps and accommodation details. Read more
  • Also available from:
  • The Book Depository, United Kingdom
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
» Click to open
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
2013
Bol.com
Netherlands
2013
» Click to close
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
» Click to open
Bol.com
Netherlands
» Click to close
Bol.com
Netherlands
Bol.com
Netherlands
Bol.com
Netherlands
Bol.com
Netherlands
Bol.com
Netherlands
Bol.com
Netherlands
Bol.com
Netherlands
More books…

Maps

Stanfords
United Kingdom
  • Sierra de Ancares Natural Park
  • Sierra de Ancares Natural Park, a popular walking area south-east of Lugo along the main route of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James to Compostela), on a contoured and GPS compatible map at 1:50,000 from IGN/CNIG with cartography from their topographic survey of Spain. The map has contours at 20m intervals enhanced by bold relief... Read more
More maps…

Walking holidays

Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Le Puy Way: Stage 6
  • Self guided walking tour on the Camino Le Puy Way from Aire sur l'Adour to St Jean Pied de Port. The final stage of the Le Puy Camino runs from Aire sur l‘Adour to St Jean Pied de Port, where it joins the Camino de Santiago French Way. Your route takes you through the two distinct regions of Béarn and the French Basque and before concluding in... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Le Puy Way: Stages 1 & 2
  • Self-guided walking tour following Stages 1 & 2 of the Camino Le Puy Way. Walk Stages 1 & 2 of the Camino Le Puy Way and follow trails through the south west of France from Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques. This section takes you through volcanic and contrasting landscapes, from the Velay Mountains, the Margeride and Aubrac plateaux, to the valley... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Portugués: Full Walk: Lisbon to Santiago Self Guided Walking Holiday
  • The full 611km of the Camino Portugués pilgrimage. Walk the full Camino Portugués from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela, and enjoy a quieter Camino and a less travelled side of Portugal, but one which is no less inspiring. From the smells of cooking from the Churrascaria, the swell of emotion from your first sight of Santiago de Compostela,... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Le Puy Way: Stage 4
  • Self guided walking tour on the Camino Le Puy Way from Cahors to Lectoure. Follow the Camino Le Puy Way from the medieval town of Cahors, across the Quercy Blanc and on to Lectoure. Which sits high above the Gers River. This is stage 4 of the Le Puy Camino which stretches from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port. Begin your journey in the town of... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Stage 3 - Burgos to Leon Self Guided Walking Tour
  • This section runs from Burgos to the wonderful city of Leon. Walk from the medieval city of Burgos to the beautiful city of Leon on the third stage of the Camino. Crop field dominate the landscape on the first part of this stage and there are not many trees in view. The river Pisuerga brings you in to Palencia and into the Tierra de Campos... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Portugués: Stage 3: Coimbra to Porto Self Guided Walking Holiday
  • This section takes you to Coimbra and up to the northern capital of Porto. This section takes you from Coimbra up to the northern capital of Porto. During the course of the week you will walk through vineyards, valleys and woodlands as you head out towards the Atlantic coast before swinging round into the beautiful UNESCO city of Porto, where... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Stage 5 - O'Cebreiro to Santiago Self Guided Walking Holiday
  • Stage 5 of the Camino, O'Cebreiro to Santiago 9 day and 8 night self guided walking holiday. Walk the last section of the Camino through rural Spain ending up in the fabulous city of Santiago de Compostela. A wonderful section of the walk and just enough mileage to gain your Compostela Certificate. This final stage passes through the sierra of... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Finisterre
  • Walking from Santiago to the Atlantic Coast. Finisterre translates as the “end of the world” and for many pilgrims they feel that their journey is only complete when they can walk no more— hence the walk from Santiago to Finisterre on the Atlantic Coast. Starting from the magnificent cathedral in Santiago, walk through the Galician countryside... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Stage 1 - St Jean-Pied-de-Port to Logrono Self Guided Walking Holiday
  • Walk the first stage of the Camino de Santiago from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Logrono. Walk the first stage of the Camino de Santiago, from St Jean which straddles the French and Spanish border, to Logrono in the famous wine growing region of Rioja. Undoubtedly the toughest stage of the whole Camino de Santiago, but one filled with rewards.... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Inglés
  • A 116km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. In the middle ages, the news of the Camino de Santiago spread all over Europe and Pilgrims from the UK and Ireland would sail down to A Coruña and Ferrol to start their pilgrimage to Santiago. Today we only use the route from Ferrol as it is over the 100km needed to gain your Compostela. The Camino... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino del Norte Stage 4&5 - Gijón to Santiago
  • Walk the last 2 sections of the Camino del Norte from Gijón to Santiago de Compostela. This trip combines the wild cost of Asturias with the tranquil, but tough hills of Galicia. We have added in a rest day in Ribadeo to this schedule due to the intensity of the walking days. This section takes you along the coast of Asturias through an... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Camino Le Puy Way: Stages 3 & 4
  • Self-guided walking tour on the Camino Le Puy Way from Conques to Lectoure. This delightful section of the Le Puy Way from Conques to Lectoure wanders through the natural landscapes of the Causses du Quercy, the luxuriant Lot region and the green round hills of the Garonne. On the first part of your journey from Conques to Cahors you will... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Via Francigena: Final Stage - Montefiascone to Rome
  • Self-guided walking tour following the final stage of the Via Francigena through Umbria and Lazio. The final stage of the Via Francigena takes you from the hill-top town of Montefiascone to Rome, the eternal city. During your journey along this ancient pilgrimage route you will follow trails through the classic Italian landscapes of... Read more
Macs Adventure
United Kingdom
  • Full Camino - St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago Self-Guided Walking Tour
  • Walk the full Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. Walk the full Camino Frances (Way of St James) —a journey for the spirit and soul that millions of travellers complete year after year. Setting off from St Jean Pied de Port in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and finishing in Santiago de Compostela, you will enjoy... Read more
More walking holidays…

Forum

  1. Cancel
  • tess 2016-03-18 23:15:27
  • weather in September
  • Hi I will be walking from Le Puy starting 09-01. What weather will I most probably encounter ?
    Also do I need to call ahead to get a bed? Will my American phone work?
    Thanks
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  • Nirvanaa 2013-03-05 21:43:09
  • Camino de Santiago de Bruxelles à Vézelay via Namur vous connaissez?
  • Bonjour,

    Au printemps dernier j'ai parcouru le camino Norte, camino Primitivo et camino de Fisterra...une magnifique aventure d'environ 1000 km qui traverse le nord de l'Espagne, d'Est en Ouest en longeant la côte atlantique et en passant par les montagnes des Asturies.
    Avec un groupe d'amis j'envisage de parcourir et découvrir cette année les chemins de Saint Jacques en Belgique au départ de Bruxelles via Namur...Quelqu'un a - t-il une expérience de ce chemin?Merci dans ce cas de bien vouloir me contacter svp....
    Ultreïa!
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